Could Your Birth Control Be Worsening Your Skin?

| Skincare
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(Photo: iStock)

If you struggle with acne, then you’re probably all too familiar with that never-ending search for some sort of solution to put a stop to your breakouts for good. When you’ve tried every cream and ointment on the market, your doctor might recommend getting on “the pill” to help improve your complexion. But a new study may be debunking this popular method of skincare and shedding some light on what's been historically prescribed for acne sufferers. 

For years, patients and doctors alike have assumed that "the pill" improves acne. But according to the recently released study, which is the most comprehensive one to date on how birth control affects women's skin, some forms of birth control help while others actually worsen breakouts. As shown in the study, it's now been discovered that it’s actually the type of hormones in the form of birth control that matter most.

The lead author of the study, Dr. David Lortscher, board certified dermatologist and founder of Curology, focused on analyzing findings from patients to help give doctors a better understanding of how different contraception choices might improve or exacerbate the presence of acne.

Dr. Lortscher began by observing 2,147 women who were using a hormonal contraception at the time of their initial acne consultation and studying its affects on their acne. The patients ranged in age from 15 to 51 with the average being 24.9 years, and the study was approved by the institutional review board at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. 

Depending on the birth control brand and method to prevent pregnancy will incorporate different hormones and levels thus having a different effect on your skin, according to Dr. Lortscher's research. Curious to see where your birth control fits on the skin scale? Beyond the breakdown below, Dr. Lortscher has created a search tool for you to determine where your birth control falls on the scale.

Rarely Experiences Break Outs 
If your skin is not typically apt to breaking out, depot injections, subdermal implants and intrauterine device all showed to worsen acne. These include Depo-Provera, Implanon, Nexplanon and hormanal IUDs. According to Dr. Lortscher's research, the trigger hormone in these tends to be progesterone.

Mild Breakouts
If you break out during certain times of the month -- we feel your pain. Adding insult to injury when you are already feeling bloated and annoyed with the world, just add a few pimples to the mix. Vaginal rings or the patch might worsen your mild acne and have little effect for better or worse.

Acne Prone
From this research, the best route for acne prone skin are oral contraceptives with Drospirenone, Ethinyl estradiol. What was not mentioned in the study is that these birth control pills have been associated with blood clotting, an extensive conversation with your doctor should be had before any decisions are made.

The most significant takeaway Dr. Lortscher wanted to provide was that women should be making decisions about their contraception only after fully understanding the potential effects on their skin and bodies, and not simply assuming all birth control methods will have a positive impact on remedying their acne. 

Hayley Simmons |

Hayley Simmons is a twenty-something writer, wife and new mama to her baby girl, Scout. A native Texan turned Nashvillian, she spends her time experimenting with healthy recipes -- then forcing her husband to eat them, finding new ways to not hate the gym and shopping for (an absurd amount of) baby clothes.